prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Word of Mouse and Reputation Management

Posted by prof e on October 26, 2013

WordOfMouseResearch suggests that personal recommendations are  preferred by most of us when making decisions about future purchases. Whether you’re buying a car or selecting a movie, knowing what your friends and acquaintances think about a particular brand, model, or company can be an important factor in your decision. Word of mouth advertising has been around since the beginning of time (“Hey Adam, check out these delicious apples”) and it continues to be highly effective.

When WOM moves online, i.e., Word of Mouse, things get a little more complicated. The complication comes from the way that we define online relationships. Facebook “friends” are often not friends at all, but distant relatives or causal acquaintances. Even more removed are the reviewers on Amazon or Yelp. They are most often completely unknown to us yet we often grant them more influence than we ought. We decide which movie to see based on reviews at and we avoid certain restaurants because of what strangers post at Most of the time that works out just fine.

However, like any trend this one is being hijacked by unscrupulous individuals and businesses out to make a quick buck. Just Google Ryan Holiday or read this article at Forbes to see how far someone will go to hoodwink gullible people, including reporters. Or check out this news story about Samsung hiring bloggers and students to attack rival HTC.

Public Relations firms and professionals have been involved in the business of reputation managements from the early days of  Bernays and Lee. As this business moves online, new strategies and tactics are needed to stay ahead in the game. What to do if your law firm is getting bad reviews online? Write your own reviews under a fake name. What to do if your company’s Wikipedia entry does not present your brand in a favorable light? Just hire to come to the rescue. Wiki-PR will write or edit your Wikipedia entry and monitor it for future edits/changes. Because Wikipedia is consumer-generated it is vulnerable to manipulation by anyone who has a motive and, in many cases, money to hire others to do the dirty work. Wikipedia is aware of the problem and is trying to stay ahead of the curve, but the task for the editorial staff at Wikipedia bears a strong resemblance to Wack-a-Mole.

Bottom line: whether you’re reading an online review or an article at Wikipedia, a healthy dose of skepticism is your first line of defense. Don’t assume that the person on the other side of that recommendation or scathing review is honest and fair. Too often they are neither. And sometimes they are crooks with a financial interest in duping you.


18 Responses to “Word of Mouse and Reputation Management”

  1. Matthew Klamm said

    “A central concern in the developing world of media today [is]..lack of knowledge about what powers and what agendas lie behind…entertainment…” (Turow)

    The above quote is written with a wide variety of media in mind but it fits perfectly in the context of Word of Mouse and online reviews. Online reviews are a particularly difficult area to distinguish between the authentic and the sponsored. My general policy is that nothing beats first hand experience. I take the word of others for what it is, opinions. Be that I am talking to my parents, or reading a review on Yelp, either way, opinions of others can only get one so far. In the small areas of life, e.g. restaurants, I feel that it is simply best to develop your own opinions. If you happen to stumble upon a bad experience, chalk it up to learning and move on. I often times like to read reviews AFTER I have eaten at a restaurant just to see how my thoughts compared to that of other patrons. In the bigger areas of life, e.g. buying a car, blindly picking isn’t really a viable option so one must start to get others opinions on a particular brand. I find that this is best done over many sources and from many different media. For example, before I bought my 2010 Jeep Liberty I consulted several friends/family and also looked at several sources online about the reliability and other features of the vehicle but the one thing I also did was TEST DRIVE the vehicle. Regardless of what others had said, I needed to judge for myself the feel of it.

    Since there is a problem with being able to fully determine what parts of the web are authentic and what parts are sponsored, it is a bit of a guess and check game to develop a set of one’s own opinions on products.

    Turow, Joseph. “The Need For Transparency.” Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th ed. New York [etc.: Routledge, 2011. 596. Print.

  2. Gretel Stockton said

    Turow mentions that advertisers worry audiences will not pay attention to ads, even if they are looking right at them (546). As a result, advertisers have tried to make their ads stand out (by making them funny or more engaging in other ways). It seems as though word of mouse is just another attempt at engaging audiences. Advertisements are changing with the times. Commercials may have been useful at some point, but now they are a great opportunity to go to the bathroom so you don’t miss anything important on a show. Online reviews are a new way to promote interactively, and audiences do not even realize. Online reviews are important, and almost vital in making large purchases, but if word of mouse is going to be taken over by undercover advertisers, it is going to become even less useful than commercials, because audiences have a choice to read these reviews.

  3. Mark Rizzo said

    When it comes to word of mouth, whether it be real or virtual, I always take it with a grain of salt. Meaning the person ripping the product apart on amazon could have had a bad day they received the product and it didn’t work making it seem much more problematic than it really is. On the other side of that coin, its just as easy to hire people to create accounts and pad your review section for a small cut of a larger profit. It really is up to the consumer to view others word of mouth critically, and know that not everything you are reading is true. Like any opinion, reviews are often specific to that particular unit that they received or use that particular consumer had in mind for it. You just have to keep a close eye and an open mind and you should be alright.

  4. Derek Mcallister said

    When looking at reviews, you never know who is really telling the truth about a product or service. What is even harder is to buy into a service or product without a review but in today’s day and age with technology changing everday it is better to find out yourself about products or services. The whole you never know until you try situation. Why is it hard to take reviews at face value? It all starts with the company itself. When a company has a new product that has never been tried, companies are willing to do anything to make money off of unsuspecting people. The easiest way is to use bloggers like Ryan Holiday. Who wanted to see if he could get away with fooling reporters on varying topics from insomnia to vynile records. Or like what Samsung had done with its campaign against HTC. Companies use “…….lack of knowlwdge about what powers and what agendas lie behind entertainment……”(Turow 596 2011); the lack of knowledge that consumers have on companies and what they sell is a huge market for companies who want to grow their profits. Especially if the product involves reviews. From what I had read companies are willing to do everything to keep the consumer so convinced that their product is good they will pay to do so. I mean if that is the way they make money, then they are only selling the review not the product and because the consumer has no idea, they are easily tricked and need more awareness of this issue in order to hold companies accountable.

  5. Karle Cordova said

    A lot of people rely on outside sources to make decisions about where they should spend their money whether it be on a product from Amazon or going out to see a movie. We want to make sure that we get the best quality or best experience we can for our money. More and more our source of information comes from the internet and what total strangers say about something. In the first chapter of Media Today, Turow talks about media literacy and he wants to educate consumers on how media can shape our lives. The very first thing he talks about under media literacy is being knowledgeable about the influences that guide media organizations (pg.24). As consumers, we needs to be able to discern between a credible source and a non-credible source. We cant believe just one source of information but must look to several sources to form our own opinion about something especially when those sources are strangers. It was a lot easier to just trust your neighbor’s or friend’s opinion on something since you have probably already trusted them in the past and know that they give you honest feed back.

  6. Mark Rizzo said

    Turow Correlation:

    Turow defines positioning as “making a particular target group of consumers feel that a brand relates to their particular interests and lifestyles”(540). This relates to word of mouth because online reviews have become somewhat of a detriment to what advertisers want you to think of their product. The ability to consult others whose opinion we value may very well be sending away thousands of customers a day from a product that they potentially felt related to their interest or lifestyle. This is why it is important for companies to take word of mouth and mouse into consideration because the focus should then be on persuading potential influential people to like their product.

    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

  7. Sara Knuth said

    In most cases, the reason consumers are so willing to listen to peer reviews is that they do not want to be explicitly sold to. “”The disadvantage of being explicit … is that the audience knows that you’re trying to persuade it, and may well try to get out of the way” (Turow 547). Turow points out that advertisers put a tremendous amount of effort into seeming casual by using tactics such as product placement. Crafting their own peer reviews is just the next step in trying to “reach consumers in ways that will virtually force them to pay attention to their messages” (Turow 547). Advertisers are fully aware of the negative effects of explicit sales and that is often why they turn to PR tactics such as word of mouse. After all, “people naturally suspect an ad …
    whereas in the case of PR they don’t even know it is taking place” (Turow 587).

    Works Cited
    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th ed. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

  8. Thomas Gibbons said

    From reading this, I’ve come to notice that I am actually one of those people that trust what random people say online before purchasing anything. But ever since reading Holiday’s slideshow, I now know not to trust what people say on the internet, but to try it out for myself and see what my personal results are. It’s just that before reading this, I feel like I didn’t have enough knowledge on the quality of the product or if i should trust it. I looked at the reviews for a product and it gave me more confidence in things that i buy. It’s the way that they use the position of the review and they make it sound friendly and related to our interest and ways. Now, if I see a review on something, I just immediately ignore it and go with what I think would be best in my own opinion.
    Works Cited:
    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th Ed. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

  9. Jada Ruiz said

    While in Media & Society I realized how sneaky industries are. ” Critics of the persuasion industries argue that their practitioners can never really be truthful because their business is to portray people, products, and organization purposefully in ways that do not reveal problems.” (586) With that being said, you can’t really know what you are reading is true. I often find myself being persuaded by what I see or read. The end quote in the article is eye opening, because it is true that you should not believe everything you see or read.
    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th Edition. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

    Jada Ruiz

  10. Timothy Rivera said

    When it comes to reviews and advertising its almost like fair game and anything goes. Turow states ” that some critics and contend that public relations and advertising firms violate the code of professional standards and safeguarding”.(pg. 587) That statement fits into the word of mouse article because it is true that you can’t always believe critics and reviews because they may be talking down one product just so another can get some recognition. Maybe these people aren’t directly promoting another product but them giving bad reviews they can still be promoting something else. In my opinion all reviews shouldn’t be looked passed because everyone feels different towards something and you may have very similar or very different thought towards a certain subject but if you don’t buy something or don’t watch something because of a review you can be missing out.

    Timothy Rivera

    Works Cited:
    Turow, Joseph, MediaToday: An introduction to Mass Communication. 4th Edition. New York: Routledge, 2011.Print.

  11. Alex Moore said

    You cannot always believe everything! I have learned this from your class. Media will misconstrue anything. A brand tries to make someone feel like it is for them and their lifestyle when in reality it is not. (540) I know that I am persuaded by what I see and read. You always need to remember that you can’t always believe what you read.

    Works Cited”
    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th Ed. New York: Routledge. 2011. Print

    Alex Moore

  12. Kami Shore said

    I always find myself trusting other people, such as my friends and family, to tell me how good a certain product is or what brand of something is best. Sometimes I don’t even realize I do that, like on facebook if one of my “facebook friends” recommends a certain product or something, I take what they said in to consideration, but I usually don’t trust their word completely. It is so sad and unfortunate how you can’t trust anyone these days; like how people create fake usernames to promote their own product or do dismiss someone else’s comments just for good advertising. When people do this, it makes me question their morals because obviously they don’t care about others and are inconsiderate about them knowing the whole truth and who actually likes and dislikes a certain product. You never know what you can believe anymore because of all the people doing things just to make some money. Turow discusses how advertisers target a certain group of people, (like age groups, gender, interests, etc.) that would be most effective for their product (Turow 540). This could mislead the targeted audience, for example, the recent McDonald’s commercials with the NFL players promoting their food. This deceives the public because in reality, athletes don’t eat a lot of fast food, including McDonald’s.

    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th Edition. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

  13. Rick Quintana said

    Word of mouth is the oldest and still the strongest form of advertising in use today. We eat, buy, sell, and cook what other people tell us to do. We watch TV to see other people’s lives and compare them to our own, what we have or have not, “keeping up with the Jones”, as a old saying goes. We like a football team because everyone else does not even knowing there stats or who is the quarterback. With the web in such worldwide accessible use we seem to want people to tell us where to go or what to do, but d we really need to know that you just ate a burrito or found a dollar for some kind of positive reinforcement on facebook from people we never met. It is as if we are trying to extend a sales pitch without being paid, as stated by Turow (539).

  14. Rick Quintana said

    works cited for last post

    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th Edition. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

  15. amdeary said

    In the days of early PR, P.T. Barnum received all sorts of flak for exploiting the naivete and gullibility of his customers by showing them clear hoaxes and claiming their validity (Turow). In a sense, I believe the exact same thing is happening here. PR and marketing firms are playing off our bias toward “personal reviews” to either upsell or downsell any given product or service. In reality, aren’t these false reviews something of a side-show attraction: hoaxes perpetuated as truth? In my opinion, these sorts of practices are absolutely nothing new; it’s just P.T. Barnum’s philosophy being introduced into new media.

    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th Edition. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

  16. Lindsay Pilot said

    I think I’m pretty guilty when it comes to taking things I hear in a “word of mouth” sense too seriously. I google reviews all the time when considering visiting different places or buying new things. I never really considered that the reviews I am reading could be set up by the company. When you mentioned it is class that it’s possible people pay others to leave positive comments, it kind of blew my mind. Of course it makes so much sense that companies would do that, but I think it can be easy to forget that could be the case. As said on the “Confessions of a Media Manipulator” slide show.. “All you do is feed the monster.” Also the slideshow mentions all you need to do is start small and make something relevant on a small scale are you could build your way up, and all the sudden it’s news.Kind of like how things can be posted online that are completely false, but if enough people view and share the lies…it becomes reality.

  17. Kelsy Lovato said

    Astroturfing, in my opinion, is considered cheating to the game. According to Mark McClennan, a user of PRSA, False advertising and fake reviews break the code of ethics (PSA-8). PSA-8 says that “The use of deceptive identities or misleading descriptions of goals, causes, tactics, sponsors or participants to further the objectives of any group constitutes improper conduct under the PRSA Member Code of Ethics and should be avoided” (PRSA). Also, Mark McClennan points out in his response that companies must pay a pricey fine once caught breaking this code. I think that companies use astroturfing as a strategy to better their company because of the growth of competition of their products. Based from the slideshow, “Trust Me I’m Lying,” trading up the chain (media manipulation) is used everyday in marketing and public relations. Also from the slideshow, Ryan Holiday explains how it works, “Blogs compete to get stories first, newspapers compete to “confirm” it, and then pundits compete for airtime to opine on it.” I think that Holiday is emphasizing the latter and the competition between each process. I also think this explains why companies are using astroturfing. I do not think this strategy is acceptable, but it is somewhat expected. I am convinced that online reviews are beneficial in many ways, so companies should find strategies to implement the importance of reviews, similar to CSU-P’s course evaluations.

  18. Amanda Jorgensen said

    I am one of those people who rely very strongly on word of mouth and mouse. For example, if I hear that a particular restaurant is good, I will probably check it out for myself. With word of mouse, however, it seems that a person would be much more skeptical when making decisions based on the reviews or opinions of complete strangers. Sometimes, I forget that these people online may have no credibility and I choose to listen to what they have to say anyway. On slide 14 of Confessions of a Media Manipulator, Ryan Holiday explains how there are thousands of bloggers out there who need to write everyday. They use recent and newsworthy information to feed they’re own blogs. Who’s to say that these bloggers are providing false opinions just for the sake of filling space on their blogs? In the Code of Ethics provided by, Honesty is the second value listed. It is important for a PR representative to tell the truth in the best interest of the public. Although many people online may be providing reviews and opinions on their own without any reinforcements from a company, it is still important that they speak honestly about whatever it is they are talking about.

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